2008 February

So there’s a homeless guy that you see around town pretty often. One day, he approaches you on the street, asking for money. You compassionately give him a couple bucks.

You know, the “least of these” and all that.

The very next day, you see that same homeless guy sitting on a park bench, obviously drunk, with a beer in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. He’s still begging, but since he’s intoxicated, he’s pretty aggressive about it. Do you ever give him more money?

Surely someone would claim “stewardship,” saying that it wouldn’t be very responsible of us to continue “wasting” money on someone who obviously doesn’t use it wisely.

Do the actions of others ever release us from our responsibilities as Christ-followers? Did the homeless guy deserve our help this first time, but not the next? Can accountability exist outside of a personal relationship? What is our motivation for generosity?

I believe that missional living requires that we demonstrate what it might be like to live in a right relationship with the world around us. The proper way to relate to sin it to confess it, repent from it, and run from it. The right relationship with all people is love.

What is the right relationship to a stranger in need?

Today I gave 20 euros (which, considering the current exchange rate, is something like $600 US dollars) to a homeless man who “lives” around our neighborhood. He was drunk, and had a cigarette in one hand. Giving felt like the right thing for me to do, but it really bothered me that the man didn’t seem to appreciate it.

Seth Godin says that all marketers are liars. If that’s true (I think it is), then whoever produces those infomercials is the worst of them. I’ve never seen an infomercial that didn’t insult our intelligence at every level- from the poor “acting” to the pseudo-talkshow format, it just reeks of disingenuousness.

The worst part of an infomercial isn’t the lie they tell (namely, that for five easy payments of $19.99, whatever garage sale fodder they’re hawking will make your life easier, healthier, and more effecient), it’s the lie they don’t even bother to tell: that the testimonial of their “celebrity” spokesperson is anything more than a paid advertisment.

Why does a paid endorsement mean less than one that is volunteered? Why is it considered an ethical issue when an author of a review fails to disclose his relationship to the product?

Sometimes I feel like my life is an infomercial for Jesus.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with leaders of small, nontraditional churches in major urban centers in the United States. Many of them are just getting started in ministry and planting churches. I understand that starting a church takes time and energy.

So when I ask these guys about their vision for involvement in international missions, their answers tend to be something along the lines of,

“We’re just getting started. Once we’re a little more established, we’ll launch into something like that.”

or,

“We’re small and don’t have the resources that those big seeker churches do. For now, we’re just going to stay local.”

What do you want your church to be about? What message are you sending to your people by putting off missions off until you’re older? Do you really think it will be easier for your people to get a vision for global involvement when you’ve been established for a while? Are resources an obstacle for God?

I say, start now. Start a church by rallying support for an international missions endeavor. Prayerfully select a place, a people group, or a missionary who is already on the field. Work together to develop a missional strategy to engage people with the gospel. If you don’t have money, come part-time, associate with other churches and groups, or come and get jobs. Intentionally engage people on vacation, in the States, or online.

Start with global ministry, and watch what it does for your local ministry.

Starting now will establish missions as a priority for your church. It will help keep your focus outward, and give you something to work toward that has lasting kingdom significance. Not that you’re “attractional,” but global involvement is appealing for the kinds of people your church is meant for.

Besides, you’re who we need in Western Europe. Forget the big churches who want to set up franchises around the world. We’re looking for missional, relational believers who have some understanding of ministry in a post Christian culture. We need people who are creative, teachable, and anti-establishment. You’re perfect for the job, so what are you waiting for?

If you were waiting for an invitation, here it is.